Coronavirus Panic Goes Global: S.Korea Warns Of “Watershed Moment” As Italy Quarantines 12 Towns, Cancels Venice Carnival: Live Updates

Sunday, February 23, 2020
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
ZeroHedge.com
Sun, 02/23/2020

Bernie Sanders has won the Nevada caucus, and coronavirus outbreaks are taking root in a handful of countries outside China, threatening a genuine pandemic and threatening to pop the market’s dismissive bubble by proving unequivocally that this is not ‘just another flu’.

We’re starting our Sunday roundup with South Korea which, along with Italy and Japan, is one of a handful of countries outside China that is genuinely in crisis. On Sunday, the South Korean government raised the national threat level to “red alert”, its highest threat level (like, North Korean troops on the move to Seoul-level) after 169 new cases were confirmed on Sunday, raising the national toll total to 602.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in warned on Sunday that the outbreak had reached a “critical watershed” moment, and that “the next few days will be a very important critical moment.” He then asked health authorities to take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to contain the virus – and it appears they’re already starting to do just that, as the FT reports.

As one can see from this chart, the bulk of new cases confirmed over the weekend have been in the ex-China, ex-Diamond Princess category:

The Italian government is taking similar steps after confirming 133 cases, up from just three less than 72 hours ago. In that time, Italy has become host to the largest coronavirus outbreak outside Asia.

As Rome scrambles to contain the outbreak, authorities on Sunday banned all public gatherings, including Venice’s famed carnival celebrations that honor the beginning of Lent. The last two days of the carnival have been cancelled as fashion week in Milan was also cancelled, forcing the cancellation of the famed Giorgio Armani show, which had been scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

According to ABC, three patients in Venice have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, all of them in their late 80s and who are hospitalized in critical condition.

Most of Italy’s cases are clustered in the north, where the most extreme lockdowns are being implemented. 25 cases have been isolated in Veneto, and the rest in Lombardy, with authorities still unable to track down the source of the virus. The first case was discovered last week when an Italian man in Codogno in his late 30s became seriously ill.

But they’re still not sure if he’s ‘patient zero’.

“The health officials haven’t been yet able to pinpoint Patient Zero,”Angelo Borrelli, head of the national Civil Protection agency, told reporters in Rome.

Initially, authorities believed this man was infected by an Italian friend with whom he had recently dined, and who also had just returned from Shanghai. When the friend tested negative for the virus, attention turned to several Chinese who live in town and who frequent the same restaurant. Regional Gov. Attilio Fontana said they tested negative, too.

Across Italy, millions of Italians are preparing to be on lockdown for weeks, as many are hoarding essential supplies.

With 90 confirmed cases in Lombardy, the region has closed schools and universities, sporting events, other public events – and even catholic mass.

More bad news out of Hubei followed on Sunday, as Wuhan’s Union Jiangbei Hospital confirmed the death of a 29-year-old doctor. That’s the second death of a young doctor in Hubei in a matter of days (another doctor died late last week). Their deaths have stirred up memories of Dr. Li, a martyr of the virus and symbol of Beijing’s missteps.

As we noted last night, Hubei reported ~600 new cases on Saturday but nobody really believes the Chinese numbers anymore.

As Beijing tries to convince the world and its population that everything is under control, European Commission finance chief Paolo Gentiloni said the EU recently delivered 25 tonnes of protective equipment to China to help it contain the outbreak.

Looking inward, Gentiloni warned there is “no need to panic” about the outbreak in Italy, even though 2 people have died and more than 100 have been confirmed to be infected. “The EU has full confidence in the Italian authorities and the decisions they are taking,” he said.

“We share concern for possible contagion, but there is no need to panic.”

We suspect he will soon eat those words.

As the Trump administration confronts the unavoidable reality that it badly miscalculated by bringing those 14 sick passengers on the evacuation flight with ~300 seemingly healthy Americans from the Diamond Princess, Japanese officials confirmed on Sunday the third death among the ~2,600 passengers who traveled on the ship (along with another 1,000+ crew).

The ‘Diamond Princes’ remains the largest outbreak outside mainland China – but South Korea has probably already surpassed it, health authorities just haven’t been able to test sick patients fast enough.

Meanwhile, President Trump assured the public that the virus is “under control” in the US just as he reportedly asked Congress to authorize federal funds to combat the virus as the CDC warns only three states are truly prepared.

Elsewhere in the US, reports on Sunday claimed 325 People in Michigan were being monitored, all of whom had recently been to mainland China, according to local health authorities.

Nearly all of South Korea’s coronavirus cases have been linked to two clusters at a church in southern city of Daegu and a nearby hospital in Cheongdo County – though cases have popped up seemingly without explanation, a phenomenon that is unnerving health officials around the world (Japan has faced a similar problem).

Yonhap reports scenes familiar to those who watched Wuhan’s initial virus response: Exhausted health-care workers sleeping on benches outside hospitals.

The South Korean government has declared ‘special management zones’ in both areas – a kind of voluntary lockdown order. From what observers can tell, it seems to be working, because Daegu’s streets are abandoned, according to seemingly every report.

As the public searches for somebody to blame for the outbreak, the public fury appears to be pointed at the cult-like church where a ‘super-spreader member who thought she just had a bad cold infected dozens of others, kicking of the outbreak in earnest.

Rumors and reports are circulating claiming the church isn’t cooperating with the South Korean government.

But nowhere outside of Hubei is the outbreak worse than in Iran. The country’s utter lack of health-care resources combined with a bitter and oppressive regime already struggling with an US-manufactured economic crisis and a leadership that just accidentally killed ~200 innocent people, including dozens of students, has left it completely vulnerable.

Alarmed by their neighbors’ outbreak, Turkey and Pakistan have closed their borders with Iran in an effort to stop the spread.

In just a matter of days, the death toll in Iran has climbed to 8 on Sunday. Assuming a mortality rate of 2%, that would imply Iran had ~400 cases one month ago when these patients were likely infected. That means there could be thousands of cases roaming around the country already. The biggest clusters so far have been reported in Qoms and in Tehran, the capital. In response, all schools in Tehran have been shuttered until further notice, and the government is telling citizens to avoid any gatherings or leaving their homes at all, if possible.

As medical workers literally throw everything they have at the virus, using AIDS drugs that have been found to be effective as well as therapies that work on flu patients, Axios reports that the global outbreak could soon cause shortages of 150 prescription drugs.

Before we go, we’d like to point out one interesting piece that we found in the Global Times – literally the most unlikeliest of places. As Beijing begins to push a narrative blaming the US for the outbreak (we know, we know), Chinese propaganda is already sowing the seeds of doubt. The virus didn’t originate in the Hunan seafood market where an illegal wildlife trade helped it pass from bats or snakes to humans. No, it was ‘introduced’ to workers at the market via human-to-human transmission via an unknown third party.

This according to Chinese “researchers”.

So much for Mike Bloomberg’s insistence that nothing can stop the inexorable march of globalization.

We’ll see about that.

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